Native to the Iberian Peninsula, Tempranillo is the grape that put the Rioja region of Spain on the map. It's typically blended with other indigenous varieties, like Mazuelo and Graciano. To be designated a Rioja Reserva, the rules require at least one year in oak, two in the bottle, but many wineries go longer (as with two of the favorites). The grape has found a home in the New World. Here are the panel's top picks:
2014 Castillo de Feliciana Tempranillo, $17
The Tempranillo grape does well in the Northwest, and this Washington entry stood out in an otherwise all Spanish line-up. The nose has a nice richness, offering candied cherry and berry, colored by hazelnut, vanilla and cedar. The equally rich palate features bright red fruits and an intriguingly different touch of peanut butter. A good buy.
2011 Marques de Murrieta Reserva, $26
A Tempranillo dominant blend (89 percent) from the Rioja Alta, this Reserva spent 20 months in American oak. It opens with floral aromas highlighted by cherry blossom, backed by vanilla, berry and anise. A smoothly textured effort, it's a well-structured wine with creamy cherry and dark plum flavors, with a nice hit of acidity on the long, lingering finish.
2011 Ramon Bilbao Reserva, $23
Here's another Tempranillo dominant blend (90 percent), also from the Rioja Alta, and also spending 20 months in oak. The nose is light on fruit, but big on secondary aromas, including cedar, leather, mushroom, mineral and anise. This is an old school, rustic style Rioja, where powerful dark fruit flavors play against bright cranberry with vanilla, leather and tobacco coming along for the ride.